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Russian Watches

by Jordan Ficklin

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With the exception of the Pavel Bure pocket watch I serviced a while back this was the first Russian watch I have serviced. The watch is a 17 Jewel manual wind Vostok. Here are my impressions:

Overall finish of the movement is very poor. I have seen Chinese counterfeit movements that were as well finished or better than this thing. This movement is definitely about functionality not beauty. The parts fit together adequately. Timing was halfway decent. It timed out way better than an old ladies Bulova watch or one of those Chinese counterfeits, but nowhere near a modern ETA or high grade movement. The deviation in positions was about 25 seconds and it will easily time out to within 10 seconds a day but it won’t be a chronometer.

9 Comments

  1. Posted November 4, 2008 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I’ve had two recent (last 10 years) Russian mechanical watches. One Poljot (handwound) and one Vostok (automatic). I found the finish to be completely non-existent, and the quality very spotty.

  2. Posted February 12, 2009 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Very interesting comments. While the movement of the Vostok shown is definitely not Swiss-grade, that watch only costs about $50. Given the price, these watches have proven to be pretty reliable. I have numerous Vostoks and enjoy them all. I’d love to hear your opinion as to what the best mechanical movement is for watches in the under $100 category. Any thoughts on that? Thank you!

  3. J.Peter
    Posted February 13, 2009 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    RWL, I’m going to work on a post to answer your question about mechanical watches for under $100 look for it this month.

  4. Posted February 21, 2009 at 1:55 am | Permalink

    I would add as well that a major potential source of the poor reputation surrounding these is likely the use of organic lubricants by the Soviets vs. modern synthetics as well as a price point and a difficulty finding willing watchmakers that has led to years/decades of neglect by their newer owners. When they were new, these were expected to be serviced every year or two by design. Many years of running them dry by enthusiasts accustomed to synthetically-lubed Swiss/Japanese calibers can have a permanent detrimental effect on performance and timekeeping (which admittedly wasn’t even too great in the first place).

    These definitely aren’t haute horlogerie, weren’t terribly high-quality to begin with and shouldn’t be compared to quality modern calibers, but an example that has been conscientiously and competently maintained can often be capable of shockingly good performance considering the entry price.

    The reputation that currently surrounds them is at least partly owner-induced in my opinion. If we consider a watch that was made in 1989 to modest quality standards using dated technologies and has never been serviced in the ensuing decades, the criticism of the original manufacture starts to seem at least slightly misplaced.

  5. richard
    Posted November 11, 2010 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Vostok means East and the watches were originally made in the 2nd Moscow watch factory.
    I have the Kremlinskie Automatic and it’s been fantastic for the 5 years I’ve owned it.
    one of the only manufacturers of sub $500 watches who state the micron thickness of the Gold Plating…in fact TAG Heuer don’t even state it!!!

  6. Tralamtam
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

    The point here is not about „Russian“ watches but about „Soviet“ watches. You are excused not to know the difference, but a difference there is and a big one. „Soviet“ was something (something you used to fear) and „Russian“ is nothing ( a third world country). Soviet are the watches you should look for. You can still buy them cheap on e-bay and take a look. Watches from the 50-s, 60-s, 70-s. Pobeda’s, Raketa’s and Vostok’s too but mostly Poljot. I have a pocket Molnia from 1954 which is as accurate and beautiful as any Swiss watch from the same period, maybe because it is or it looks like a Swiss Cortebert, only soviet made. Not to mention a Poljot from the 60-s or 70-s, I recently acquired in Bulgaria. The watch was most certainly never used, but was serviced (I bought it from a local watchmaker). The case is plated with gold -20 microns gold. The case is flawless, the movement exquisite and the accuracy of the watch is consistent +2,+3 seconds per 24 hours. I’m not saying it is as good as an Omega from the same period but it is at least 90% as good as the Omega and after 40 years you can still buy one for $60 and put it on your hand as a dress watch. And by the way even the cheap soviet Komandirskie, which are not as well made as a Seiko 5 are exactly as accurate as my last three Seiko 5′s – +25 minutes per 24 hours.

  7. J.Peter
    Posted July 21, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Tralamtam, you are correct. I should have said Soviet, not Russian. The Pavel Bure was from Imperial Russia, now that was a nice watch!

  8. Tralamtam
    Posted July 22, 2011 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    These are links to the internet site of a Russian watch enthusiast (just in case you are interested).A professional watchmaker or watch repairer I assume. Unfortunately everything is in Russian. No translation, although you can try an automatic one from Google. The site is called “A private collection of unusual antique watches”
    http://german242.com/w/bure_split/bure.htm
    This is a Pavel Bure stopwatch, rattrapante, the end of XIX century.
    http://german242.com/w/hauth/hauth.htm
    And this here is a marine chronometer Fridriech Hauth, made for the Russian imperial navy in Saint Petersbourg at the beginning of XIX century.

  9. C Carrier
    Posted August 4, 2011 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    Any comments on the Buran 3133 manual wind movement? I have 3 of these and from the back they look very well made. I have yet to service one however.

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  1. [...] Watch Lover left a comment about my review of a Vostok watch I serviced. He asks what I would recommend for a mechanical watch [...]

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